Diversity is the new normal and we’d better get used to it! We are living and working in an age of rapid change: increasing globalisation and connectivity, faster time to market, more cross-border mergers and acquisitions, many new and more accessible markets, and greater mobility of workforces and teams.
Even thirty years ago, we would have been able to more or less predict whom our business partners, suppliers, distributors, customers, bosses, work colleagues, and team members would be. We would have expected to interact with them safe in the certainty that most of them would be People Like Us.
Nowadays, these certainties are gone. Under the impact of migration, globalisation, and the concentration of work in super-connected cities across the world, we are dealing with people of many different national, ethnic, cultural, social, and generational backgrounds on a daily basis.
This means we are now required to develop and use a once neglected skill—cultural intelligence—as never before. The good news is that cultural intelligence can be discovered and forged into a powerful capability for success in the new global economy. Two decades of research by scholars in dozens of countries have contributed to the evolution of the cultural intelligence (CQ)* model, a simple and clear four-part system for approaching culturally diverse situations and the challenges of cross-cultural encounters.
I have written Bamboo Strong as a very personal exploration of the CQ model and its four capabilities—CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action. Each of the central chapters takes as its reference point one of the four aspects of the CQ model as laid out in the excellent studies and publications of the Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC, based in Michigan, Illinois.
CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE STARTS WITH YOU
But I also believe that, beyond the systematic application and development of cultural intelligence, the real driver for success in today’s globalised world is you. In other words, it’s your own pliancy, adaptability, readiness to learn and to empathise. Cultural intelligence starts with the personal—with how you see yourself in different cultural situations, how much awareness you have of your own culture, and how it affects your thinking and behavior.
This book is intended to both motivate and inspire you rather than dull you with facts or extensive lists of behaviour. Throughout my life, I’ve been very fortunate and privileged to travel, live, and work in many countries around the globe.
I’ve married into families from two cultures that are very different to my own. I’ve had a rich variety of diverse occupations from academic to wine and olive farmer, to novelist, travel writer, international speechwriter and speaker, cross-cultural mentor, business guide, and strategist.
But this does not necessarily make me unique. The fact is, many of us are now global citizens of a world where multicultural diversity exists right on our doorstep and in all aspects of our lives, from going to the gym to shopping to dining out to using social media.
THE CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE JOURNEY
I didn’t start off as a global citizen. I grew up in a very different environment of People Like Us, of safe certainties, of expected behaviour and social assumptions that were typical of an Anglo-Welsh, London-born, grammar school- and university-educated boy of the time.
It was only when I broke away from this background, and went to live with my first husband in Switzerland and Italy, that I discovered the elements of cultural intelligence that were to stand me in such good stead in my future life and career.
One of the central themes of this book is that you can only develop strong cultural intelligence if you are open to, and ready to learn from, cross-cultural experiences in real life. And the more of them you experience, the stronger your CQ will be.
I have made countless cultural mistakes and blunders in new cultural environments and when meeting new people from other backgrounds and countries. However, I have never allowed them to deter me from taking a risk, trying things out, stepping into the dark.
The various stages of the cultural intelligence journey I guide you through in this book—Innovation, Courage, Exploration, Perspective, Performance, and Transformation—are intended as stepping-stones into this new world I discovered, a world of cross-cultural adventure, wonder, and celebration.
Much of the guidance I offer is personal, but I also walk you through strategies and techniques to move you forward on your CQ journey. For this reason, at the end of each chapter there is a link to a Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Planner on my website: www.davidcliveprice.com/planner.
THE CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE PLANNER
This Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Planner can provide you or your organisation with the essential skills to become a confident participant in cross-cultural encounters. It includes a summary of the action points of that particular section, so that you can create your own cultural intelligence strategy as you move onwards in your journey from Courage to Transformation.
The Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Planner also includes a grid of the four CQ capabilities; a number of assessment tools to determine your own and your colleagues’ cultural profiles; a step-by-step builder to develop your organisation’s cultural intelligence strategy; and checklists and tips.
Together with the mentoring programmes laid out at the back of the book, the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Planner is intended to provide you with all the help you need to become a confident participant in cross-cultural encounters and to build relationships, communicate, negotiate, and lead across cultures both at home and overseas—in other words, to become what I call a true Bamboo Leader.
BECOMING A BAMBOO LEADER
I have taken this term, and the title of this book, Bamboo Strong, from the giant, woody grass that grows and transforms so rapidly when it is cut down. Bamboo easily withstands the harshness of winter. It is incredibly strong and yet flexes and bends with the force of the wind or rain. That is why the ancient Chinese regarded the bamboo as a symbol of strength, courage, and resilience.
Cultural intelligence work is often complex and challenging. It requires patience, and nuance, and subtlety, which is perhaps why, according to research carried out by Dr David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center, more than 90 per cent of global executives identify cross-cultural effectiveness as their biggest challenge.
If you have a black-and-white view of the world and of cultural issues, if you are impatient in new situations and fearful of losing control, cultural intelligence might not be for you. However, if you can train yourself to develop your CQ, you stand a much greater chance of success in today’s global economy.
This essential capability is in even greater demand in a time of mass migration, religious fundamentalism, and a ready recourse to xenophobia and political demagoguery. The world needs leaders with high CQ—not only to spread the message of tolerance but also to provide deeper and more nuanced insights into other viewpoints, conflicting opinions, and unfamiliar traditions and beliefs. It’s easy to fall back on stereotype and intolerance.
Bamboo Strong suggests there is another way. It’s a path of excitement and curiosity, of surprise and sheer delight in the discovery of other approaches and other viewpoints. I still feel thrilled when I set out in a new city, in an unfamiliar country, and I know that my cultural intelligence will guide me on my progress to new experiences and world views, to new friends and new pastures.
I hope that this book will encourage you to undertake a similar journey of transformation based on a growing ability to flex with the winds of new experiences, different ways of thinking, and unfamiliar beliefs. In our drive to become true Bamboo Leaders, we should take heart. We are not showing weakness. We are helping to make the world a better place. Please let me know about your cross-cultural experiences.
You can connect with me by registering for the complimentary Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Planner and joining my email subscriber list. You can also reach out to me on social media and read about my Bamboo StrongTM strategies and discoveries at http://www.davidcliveprice.com
To your successful CQ journey!
Dr David Clive Price
* CQ® is a registered trademark of the Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC